As has been my want over the past few years, I can’t resist making my predictions for the coveted and needed TONY Awards. I say needed, because many a show’s very existence depends on the box office boost given to them via the exposure they get on the show as well as the ability to use the phrase “Winner of the 2023 Tony Award for….” This year in particular, the Tony Awards show is sorely needed. Attendance has improved but is still far below the pre-pandemic levels of 2019. The Writers Guild strike threatened the broadcast this year as there would be no one to write the show and other unions threatened to support the Writers Guild by refusing to cross the picket line. That would have meant no stars on stage showing off the various musicals of the season nor anyone in the audience to receive their award, ergo, no show to televise. That would have been the death knell for several shows which counted on the box-office boost of the televised event to keep them going. Recognizing the importance to the entire theatre industry, the Writers Guild gave a special sanction to the Tony Awards allowing them to go on and for the multitude of actors, musicians and technicians to work on the show with no possible retaliations.
So having said all that, now that there will be a show on Sunday, here are some of my predictions for the awards……
BEST MUSICAL – Although there are some big splashy musicals nominated in this category (SOME LIKE IT HOT and NEW YORK,NEW YORK) I think the musical will go to KIMBERLY AKIMBO, a small musical with only 9 characters and a modest budget. It is a heart-warming and surprisingly funny musical about a 15 going on 16 year old girl with a genetic illness which makes her age quickly. It has a strong score by Jeanine Tesori & David Lindsay-Abaire and a well-written book, also by David Lindsay-Abaire, which manages to keep the musical from becoming maudlin or diabetes inducingly sweet. SOME LIKE IT HOT may sneak in there to steal away the Tony, but my money stays with KIMBERLY AKIMBO.
BEST PLAY- I will be shocked if any play wins other than LEOPOLDSTADT, Tom Stoppard’s semi-autobiographical play about a rich and assimilated Jewish family living in Austria and how they were affected by the Holocaust. Mr. Stoppard, who is 85 and British, is the winner of 4 previous Tony Awards, more than any other playwright in Tony history. In recent years, several epic plays from the U.K. have grabbed this award (THE LEHMAN TRILOGY, THE INHERITANCE, THE FERRYMAN and HARRY POTTER AND THE CURSED CHILD). With a cast of 38, it looks like LEOPOLDSTADT will continue the trend.
BEST MUSICAL REVIVAL – This category is a tough one. There appears to be 3 top choices all worthy of the award: INTO THE WOODS, SWEENY TODD and PARADE. I am going a bit out on a limb to say that PARADE will win with Sondheim fans splitting their votes between WOODS and SWEENY. Plus, PARADE, which is about the 1918 hanging of a Jewish man in the deep south, has some added social relevance with the slow growth of antisemitism and attacks on synagogues in the U.S.
BEST PLAY REVIVAL – Another tough category to call. I am torn between A DOLL’S HOUSE and TOPDOG/UNDERDOG but again with social relevance added in, I am giving the edge to TOPDOG/UNDERDOG. It is a wonderfully written play by Suzan-Lori Parks about two brothers living in a very small apartment just trying to get by in this difficult world.
Now back to some easier to call awards……
BEST ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL – This one easily goes to Victoria Clark for her wonderful performance in the title role of Kimberly Akimbo. Ms. Clark, who is in her early 60’s is remarkable playing the teenager with a disease which causes early aging. You quickly forget Ms. Clark’s real age and would swear it is a teen with age makeup playing the part.
BEST ACTOR IN A MUSICAL -In this category, my money is on J.Harrison Ghee for his performance as Jerry/Daphne in SOME LIKE IT HOT. Mr. Harrison, who is non-binary, gives a bravura performance as the musician who allows his inner woman to, excuse the pun, come out. He is a strong singer and dancer as well which makes his performance this year’s standout.
BEST ACTRESS IN A PLAY – I will have to give this one to Jodie Comer for her performance in PRIMA FACIE. Ms. Comer plays a lawyer who defends men accused of sexual assault and what happens when she herself becomes a victim of that very crime. It is a one-woman show and her performance is nothing short of amazing.
BEST ACTOR IN A PLAY – Again, this is a tougher call. I am going to say that the award will go to Sean Hayes for his portrayal of Oscar Levant in GOOD NIGHT,OSCAR. Mr. Hayes gained fame as Jack in WILL AND GRACE and has gone on to prove his acting chops in several Broadway outings. He is well liked in the theatre community AND makes some bold choices in his performance which seemingly paid off, at least by the many rave reviews he received. In second place and not by much, my vote goes to Stephen McKinley Henderson in BETWEEN RIVERSIDE AND CRAZY. He playes a retired cop desperately trying to hold onto his rent-controlled apartment in New York City’s Upper West Side.